Thousands of people displaced from their communities, following attacks by bandits in Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State, were recently returned to their homes by the state government, with the help of security forces.
The IDPs were returned on Monday August 31, 2020 after spending 5 days at the Jibia Central Primary School where they took shelter. They were assured of their safety and security, so that they could go back to their homes and farmland which they have abandoned for fear of bandits’ attacks.
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Daily Trust on Saturday visited some of the affected communities to see how the returnees settling down, and whether or not their safety and security were guaranteed as promised, but found that the situation in the area is that of fear and apprehension.
Some of the villages visited by our reporter were as silent as graveyards, as almost everybody had gone. At Zangon Tsauni village, only two men were seen. One of them who identified himself as Malam Ibrahim, said all their families have returned back to different places as IDPs because the security agents that accompanied them told them that they were not assigned to stay with them.
“Most of them returned immediately after the soldiers left because they told us that no one asked them to stay with us. From that Monday, we have not seen a single policeman or soldier here,” he said.
He said those of them who remained in the village were only there to attend to their farms during the day time and in the evening, they leave the area to a safer place.
Unlike Zangon Tsauni, at Tsamben Tsauni village, a handful of the returnees, including men, women and children were seen. They however told our reporter that none of them sleep in their rooms at night, but either move to a neigbouring village in the Republic of Niger or pass the night in the bushes.
“If anyone tells you that he sleeps in his room in this village at night, that person is lying to you. Most of us sleep in our farms despite the dew, mosquitoes and other insects, or some, especially our women, will have to cross over to Garin Kaura village in Niger Republic for their safety,” one of the returnees said.
A 90-year-old man, Malam Usman Tsambe, told our reporter that the communities, who were hitherto living in peace, are majorly farmers, but the problem started about 10 years ago with bandits from Zamfara State passing through the area. He said it was about four years ago when the bandits began to attack the people of the area and rob them of their belongings, adding that the situation became worse this year when the bandits began their house-to-house operation in the communities.
Another resident of Tsambe said “We are separated from our family members; some of them we don’t even know where they are. We were returned here but none of the security personnel remained here and even on the very day we were returned, the bandits attacked one of the neigbouring villages – Zangon Garin Kusu at night, and carted away some cows.”
He said some of the soldiers that were seen in some villages were there only for a short period of time during the day time, while the bandits usually come at night.
The village head of Tsamben Tsauni, Mai Gari Ali, pleaded with the government to come to their aid, saying the bandits have collected all their belongings and have resorted to raping their women. He said the promised made by government to them when they were returned was not fulfilled.
“When they came to return us, they said we should board the vehicles they brought, saying soldiers would be deployed to the area. Our people protested that they will not return in the company of the security agents. They contacted the governor who instructed that the soldiers should accompany us, but the moment we were here, they left, and our people began to leave immediately as well,” he said.
He said in the whole village, it is only one horse that is remaining as all other animals including sheep, goats and cattle have been rustled by the bandits.
A resident of Tsamben Radi, Uzairu, said military men were seen in their village once in a while, adding that there’s been some relief compared to the period before their displacement.
“Since our return from Jibia, the bandits have not come to our village. Yesterday, the soldiers were here briefly in the evening and then moved. We’ve had some relief honestly, but we are still living in fear as they (bandits) could come unexpectedly at any time,” he said.
Also, at Karauki village, residents said most of their wives and children still take shelter at night in Garin Kaura, Republic of Niger.
When our reporter visited Garin Kaura in Niger Republic, residents confirmed to Daily Trust on Saturday that no fewer than 500 people from the neigbouring villages come to pass the night in the village.
Armaya’u Muhammad, a resident of the town, said “Even last night, not less than 35 women and children slept in my house and the story is the same with many houses where you have at least five people crossing over from Nigerian villages to take shelter here.”
Daily Trust Saturday observed that no single security personnel was seen in the villages visited. The only place where our reporter sighted two Toyota Hilux belonging to the border drill team, was at Kukar Nabaushi, a town along the Jibia-Kauran Namoda Road.
However, member representing Jibia at the Katsina State Assembly, Hon. Mustapha Yusuf, maintained that the state government has tried in its effort to secure the place through its agreement with the military.
He added, however, that the agreement was for the military to patrol the area and not to be stationed at a particular place, noting that they are doing just that. “I’m monitoring the situation and I have maintained close contact with the commandant for regular update. The fact that some of the villages you have visited have told you that they have seen soldiers a couple of times is a confirmation that the soldiers are patrolling the area as agreed and that is what the Brigade Commandant said they will do.
“We are not saying that is enough, we still need to do more to ensure the security of our people, but what we are saying is that there is security as promised to the communities and I am appealing to the authorities concerned to double their effort in order to increase the level of security and ensure the safety of our people so that they could return to their normal life,” Hon Yusuf has said.
On his part, the commissioner of police, CP Sanusi Buba, said there was a synergy between the military and the police as demanded by the state governor, maintaining that the team was still on ground, patrolling the area.
Also reacting to the development, the commissioner for sports and social development, Malam Sani Danlami, who is also the chairman state committee on IDPs, said the communities affected requested that they would want to return to their villages if security would be provided for them.
“When we informed the governor about their request, he contacted the Brigade Commandant and the Police commissioner who promised him that they would provide security in the area.
“The state government made provision for some allowances and other logistics to encourage the security personnel. So as far as we know adequate security is provided because the day they were returned at least 11 police and military vehicles escorted them,” he said.
On the concerns raised by the affected communities, he explained, “Security of the people is not something that one could play politics with. Since the people have raised those concerns, we would investigate to find out what went wrong to ensure that we have taken adequate care of their concerns.”